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Children delight in fishing at 23rd Merwin Special Kids Day

The Columbian
Published: July 22, 2023, 5:50am

WOODLAND — At the 23rd annual Merwin Special Kids Day, more than 200 children caught and took home as many as five trout each, aided by volunteers from Pacific Power, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, and many recreational fishing organizations and corporate vendors. For some kids, it was their first chance to catch a fish.

The yearly event is always marked by lots of excitement, laughter and notes of gentle encouragement.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal to watch,” said Kevin Young, who manages the hatchery for Washington Fish & Wildlife. “Giving kids with disabilities access to fish in the hatchery ponds puts smiles on their faces, and that is absolutely the reason we’re here.”

Pacific Power has sponsored the event with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for more than 23 years, a commitment interrupted only by the pandemic.

The event brings together young patients — including those with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, cancer or other conditions — from Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, Kaiser Kids and other facilities. Along with their family members, children are paired with volunteer fishing coaches who help them reel in and net trout that have been cultivated especially for the event. Kids can collect prizes for fish that can weigh up to 9 pounds.

When children arrive at the hatchery, they’re given T-shirts, fishing rods, tackle and other items. Then they’re sent with a volunteer coach to catch their limit of five fish, which are cleaned and put on ice while families enjoy a barbecue.

Pacific Power volunteers were joined by volunteers from Cowlitz County Fire District 1 firefighters, Fish First, Southwest Washington Anglers, Swift Community Action Team, Vancouver Wildlife League and Klineline Kids Fishing Nonprofit. Vendors included Arctic Glacier, Bob’s Sporting Goods, Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear, Corwin Beverage, Edge Rods, Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor, North Fork Lures and Wilbur-Ellis Nutrition.